What is Loneliness?
Loneliness and being alone are two very different things. It is possible that you are surround by a loving family, the greatest group of friends or colleagues. And still feel lonely. Loneliness is feeling of disconnectedness and.or being alone.
It is normal to feel lonely at times. However, it is crucial that we identify difference between loneliness and chronic-loneliness. One is momentary and lasts for small period. On the other hand other lasts over extended periods effecting quality of life and requires intervention.
Why Should we care about Loneliness?
There have been increasing reports regarding loneliness. In UK alone about 43% of young adults (17-25 year olds) have reported feeing lonely. Radha Agarwal in her book Belong points out that one in four individuals in US have no close friends to confide with. In an article published in India loneliness has been compared to dementors from movie Harry Potter.
Loneliness has haunted top tier positions among employees. Many colleagues come to superiors for help and/or advise as flattering as this may be initially, slowly people with leading roles may find/perceive themselves to be alone as they quite often have no-one to approach to discuss their problems or issues.
Similar reports about loneliness can be seen throughout the world. Suggesting that something needs to be done to correct this loneliness.
Elderly have specially become susceptible to this loneliness pandemic.
As more often, most of the household works while the older generation is left behind. Technology such as video conferencing have been shown to reduce the feeling of isolation but the barrier many times are a far cry for elderly
Loneliness has its own consequences. Loneliness have been found to be much more damaging to health than alcoholism, smoking and twice as bad as obesity.
In recent studies investigating links between social isolation and neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia it was found that: "feelings of loneliness" is associated with elevated risk of clinical dementia.
A potential cure for loneliness.
In her book Belong Radha Agarwal defines community as a group of three or more people who share common values.
Human Beings are deeply social creatures. Historically being socially isolated would have gravely threatened chances of survival therefore. As being abandoned would have meant death due to elements or become a prey to predator.Therefore, it is possible that loneliness is an evolved response to social isolation. However, as technology has progressed we as a species collective have begun to fail to connect with other individuals in a meaningful way.
Our bodies respond to being isolated and social pain in very same way as physical trauma. Hence, a conclusion can be derived that being isolated had negative consequences and risked survival of the individual itself. Since pain is a very strong motivator, humans may have evolved a pain response to being socially isolated.
Being in community fosters a sense of belonging and makes it easier for individuals to connect. As community we connect at various levels such as prayer, crowds wearing same sports jerseys and cheering for their favourite team... These are best describes ad rituals.
Community has shared values. Which makes it easier for people to connect over shared interests initially. Later on, these connections may flourish into cherished bonds.
Belonging is the feeling that you are supposed to be here and matter. Belonging is opposite of loneliness.
As, we find our people and Create or join communities we are passionate about. This would foster the belongingness.
Being alone is not necessarily same as being lonely.
Loneliness is feeling of being socially isolated or alone.
Human beings are fundamentally socially creatures.
The is a need to be social, strong enough that we have developed pain responses.
Loneliness has negative consequences to health comparable to alcoholism, smoking and obesity.
Loneliness have been found to elevate risk for developing dementia.
Communities foster a sense of belonging.
To connect with others in a meaningful and engaging fashion is antidote for loneliness.
Dyal, S. R., & Valente, T. W. (2015). A systematic review of loneliness and smoking: small effects, big implications. Substance use & misuse, 50(13), 1697-1716.https://doi.org/10.3109/10826084.2015.1027933
Kim, O. S. (1999). The effects of loneliness on alcohol drinking, smoking, and health perception in college students. Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing, 29(1), 107-116. https://doi.org/10.4040/jkan.19188.8.131.52
Holwerda TJ, Deeg DJH, Beekman ATF, et al Feelings of loneliness, but not social isolation, predict dementia onset: results from the Amsterdam Study of the Elderly (AMSTEL) Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry 2014;85:135-142. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jnnp-2012-302755